Joe Cornish proves that Pegg and Wright aren’t the only ones who can do stand-out British comedy horror movies.
When you think of great horror comedies you think of An American Werewolf in London and Shaun of The Dead. It’s a tough act to follow; to make people jump and laugh all in one easy to digest pill. So when it was announced that Joe Cornish, of The Adam & Joe Show fame, was making himself an Aliens Vs Hoodie romp it was met with both high-expectation and a nervous glee. After all his Adam & Joe Show days cemented his label as a geek-come-cinephile. Thankfully Cornish doesn’t just succeed in pulling it off but veritably excels in creating a hugely enjoyable and surprisingly scary monster movie.
When a group of teenagers, led by the want-to-be gangster Moses (Boyega), kill an alien they realise that the earth is about to be invaded. Slowly but surely the beasties descend and start targeting the kids who live in their council estate, fondly known as The Block. Dragging nervous resident Sam (Whittaker) and neighbour Ron (Frost) into the mix the gang of youths must take on the aliens to save, if not the earth, their home.
Early doors the Attack certainly presents the fun character interaction of a Pegg/Wright opus. The quintessential English setting and fun characters make for huge charm and witty dialogue. The breaking of the stereotypes by sending them up, while never losing their humanity, is inch perfect and endlessly endearing. Pest in particular, played with cheeky glee by Alex Esmail, is a character who, despite his hostile teenage ways, is fun while always staying the right side of obnoxious. Indeed all the ‘hoods’ manage to be warm within the confines of their otherwise deplored clichés. It is testament to both Cornish’s writing skills but also the break-out performances of the young cast.
However, when the aliens of the film, a cleverly kitsch design of evil Wookie meets 80s cult movie Critters (1986), come to jaw snapping life the comedy takes a passenger, rather than a back-seat. Here the inspiration seems to be firmly coming from the John Carpenter/Wes Craven school of thought. The result is a strangely perfect combination. Just when the tension racks up, and indeed the high body count, the film releases it with a well-timed gag. In fact the violence and gore on display may come as something of a surprise to those who, judging by the advertising of the film, thought they would be witnessing a firmly comedic based yarn. It is always funny but the humour is designed to pepper the horror rather than dominate it.
Furthermore, Cornish proves that he can certainly handle a good old set-piece. Inventive action sequences utilise the locations and readily available weaponry of a council estate to great effect. It is perhaps telling that the altogether big budget Cowboys And Aliens pales in comparison to the otherwise rip crunching exploits on display here. With this in mind perhaps it is not such a stretch to learn that Cornish was considered for the latest Die Hard movie off the back of this film.
Special mention should also go to young lead actor Boyega. His strong silent type belies an otherwise insecure character. Indeed such is the magnetic presence of Boyega that whether he was ever intended to be the out and out lead he makes the part his own with such aplomb you cannot help but gravitate to him. Suffice to say having just been cast in Spike Lee’s TV show Da Brick Boyega is a definite star in the making.
While comedy horrors are a hard nut to crack Cornish succeeds in smashing it out of the park. Attack The Block is one of the most fun, thrilling and enjoyable films of the year. See and revel in its madness, bruv.